I tweeted today that if “Spurs basketball was a girl, I’d marry her and never, ever treat her wrong.” I was only partially kidding.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum — whether you are an adamant appreciator of ball movement and the collective strength of a team over the singular greatness of an individual — the Spurs are a team that is highly scrutinized and, at the same time, highly appreciated. Even the most derisive basketball fan would agree that these Spurs (winners of 17 straight) are an elite team. Unless they are completely naive, that is. But do the Spurs play beautiful basketball?
Does “beautiful” in this context represent an utterly unstoppable player careening to the rim with impunity as time wanes? Or does “beautiful” constitute a synonymous group of five players, moving, reacting and feeding off each other as one unit? Well if we use soccer as a model — it is considered the beautiful game, of course — then the Spurs deserve to be considered as basketball’s beautiful team.
The Spurs don’t average the most assists per game; the Denver Nuggets slightly edge them out in that department. The Spurs don’t have the one definitive star that dominates national narratives. The Spurs don’t have elite athleticism. I would contend, however, that the Spurs’ athleticism is very subtle, unbeknownst to the naked eye. They don’t contain the requisite qualities that compel the casual fans to swoon with anticipation and awe.
Instead, they just continue to operate with indifferent, mechanical inefficiency. Their 110.9 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) indicates that they score points more often than any other team. But what really makes the Spurs beautiful is their adherence to team, work ethic and flexibility. The Spurs are flexible with everything; rotations, minutes, shot opportunities, everything. If Gary Neal is having a good shooting night, you know who will dominate offensive possessions. Perceptions do not prevail in the Spurs’ system; they are, essentially, irrelevant.
And that self-confidence is pretty refreshing in this era of the NBA. I’d even venture to call that confidence beautiful.
But, hey, that’s just me.
(Editor’s note: Game recap and game grades will be coming soon. Sorry for the delay.)